Crikey Canyon from Rail Motor Ridge – 27/28 January 2010.


Rock Hill, Wollangambe. 1:25000


BWRS – Remote Canyon Access Training:- Dave, Dave, Paul, Fin, Nic, Mark, Dug.

Friday night. Rail Motor Ridge Saturday Morning.  Pic by dug

I had arranged to leave my car at the farm at Richmond and travel up the rest of the way with Paul.  In the end we decided to sleep at the farm and drive up early in the morning, to save packing up a probably wet tent in the morning.


Away just after 5 we arrived at the southern Deep Pass Car Park about 6:30, to find nary a sole stirring, so much for a 7 start!  A couple of members have not turned up yet. The trip was arraigned around one team doing Crikey Canyon and other teams doing other canyons in the area.  There was some discussion about what other canyons to do with Four Man, Sandy Caves and Harmonic Convergence mentioned.    Nic, Fin and I had expressed an interest in Crikey.  In my case because I last did this canyon in the 70's, when I was new to canyon and abseil.  My only memory from that trip was awkward starts, one in particular where we had to reach down over a meter for the rope and then hook on and lower yourself without slipping and shock loading the rope and anchor.

There was a general lack of interest from most other team members in long scrub bashes into and out of the other canyons mentioned.  Reports suggested that these other canyons may have been less interesting anyway.  Final decision was that we would split into two teams and each do Crikey separately.  If the other two turned up we would split into three, three man teams.

In the end we didn't get away till after 8 and left without the missing people.  Down the abandoned road to Deep Pass, very rutted, steep, narrow, with slippery clay patches.  Deep Pass is a lovely natural feature, long, wide, level fern covered valley between tall cliffs.  Deep Pass cliffs Saturday morning - Nic. pic by dug Many people use it for a pleasant weekend bush camping place.  Our path, across the valley and up the cliffs the other side, making use of a convenient fallen tree, crawl through a tight gap and then scramble up a small gulley.  I plan to use a belay to come back down the scramble, on the way home.

Fin is the designated navigator, so she can get the BWRS navigation competency ticked off.  No problem at Mt Norris till a gps comes out, the readings from this indicates we are about 200 meters away.   I can see we are on top!  Ahh the others say what datum is the gps set to, is it the same as the maps we are using.  No, the gps is set to agd 84, the map is gda 94 (named gda on some gps's - for practical purposes the gps datum wgs 84 can be used). Flower on Rail Motor Ridge, Saturday morning.  pic by dug Change the gps datum to wgs 84 and suddenly we are back on top of Mt Norris again – is this time travel or warp travel or just old kind magic? :-)

Rail Motor Ridge extends a lot further than we are going to day and winds about between the Bungleboori Creek and tributaries to the south and Naynook Creek and tributaries to the north.  Waratah Ridge is to our south beyond the Bungleboori.  Somewhere in that direction we can hear the sweet refrain of doof doof drum music wafting on the warm airs, (a weekend rage party it would seem as we hear it on and off all weekend).  

A delightful warm sunny autumn day to walk in the bush.  Perhaps a little scrubbier on the ridge top than in the past but still not too bad.  Trees just tall enough to provide shade when needed.  Beautiful sandstone ridge flower display, only small flowers this time of year, but we pass lots of waratah seed pods to show there would have been a magnificent display of these big red flowers in spring.  Mainly small ridge top birds flitting from tree to tree at this time of day, but we do see the odd flock of brightly coloured parrots.   At the right location we turn south onto a spur which will take us to a creek junction in Crikey creek.  Interesting walking with the outcrops of sandstone covered by contorted iron stone deposits (the iron stone is harder so these strange prehistoric shapes are left proud of the sandstone outcrop).  Very weird shapes some of them.

Fin has had no problems with the navigation and we eventually catch up with the others at the Crikey Creek junction.  Lunch for us, while the other party went ahead.  An interesting open creek fairly typical of the area, cliffy sections, boulder jambs to negotiate, short pools to paddle, scrambles, fallen trees to scramble through, round, over, crunch, crunch, mostly fern covered with the odd stand of tree ferns.  It went on longer than we had anticipated but eventually the tall cliffs either side narrow ahead, leaving a ridiculously narrow gap for the river to flow through.   We have arrived at the canyon and I for one am impressed.  The way the water has sculptured the rock into a wavy slot, opening out a little below our feet, has to be seen to be believed.  I can see this artistry from this photo on this page, because I know what I'm looking at but I fear others may miss the charm.  The rock in this part of the canyon is dark compared with the brightly coloured rock exposed in other canyons.  Still I love it. The cliffs come together and leave a rediculously narrow gap. pic by dug

An anchor sling has been set from a tree on the left.  Nic would prefer to move it, but I am happy enough with the descent.  In the end Nic finds undoing the sling knots too slow and we go from there.  An abseil of 10m takes us into a chamber about 3m wide and 15 long about 10m high to where the wavy gap narrows above us limits light from above.  The next abseil about 8m is from slings around a chock-stone at the edge of the waterfall drop, we need to reach down for the rope and then lower ourselves carefully to tension the abseil rope without shock loading it or the anchor.  No problems to any of this crew.  It is starting to get quite dark due to the limited light filtering through the narrow slot above us and the passage is getting much narrower not much over a meter here. 

The next abseil about 8m has an awkward start.  We need to scramble through a hole, down onto the small flat top of the waterfall, to get onto the rope, remember we are wearing overnight packs.  Again this group has no difficulty.  It is now so dark we could easily use a torch but we are all happy groping around in the dark checking slings and getting onto rope.  We pass many glow worms visible clearly in the gloom.  A most magic place almost a cave, less than a meter wide in many places, the flash from the camera reveals much more colourful rock in this section. 

 The path we follow is like many canyons.  Climb downs, waterfalls (not much water flow today), squeezes,  a few short swims up to 10m long, and lots of wading, and rock hopping.  I don't find the water too cold yet.

As we progress downstream, gradually the light improves, as the canyon widens above us.  Occasionally we can even see the sky way up through the cliffy gap.  It is still clear and sunny up there, even if we do occasionally get damp (just like fine rain) from the spray of a side entry waterfall way up high.  There is more vegetation now, mosses, ferns, tree ferns, tall canyon trees - coachwood and sassafras, and the odd nuisance fallen tree debris, mixed with boulder jambs.   A couple of the enormous chock-stones way up above us gives a sense of de je vu.  Can I really remember some things from 30+ years ago or are there similar sites in other canyons?  (Probably a little of both :-).  Crikey Canyon Narrow and dark, beginning to open out.  pic by dug

We came to the abseil I remember and there is still a sling way down there, but other thoughtful soles have used a piece of wedged timber to make a better place to abseil from.  Mind you the start stills involves gently lowering yourself onto the rope but only 300 - 400 mm not 1.3m.  For the record I took the easier way today (-:.

Now we can catch views of the cliff faces that line the Bungleboori. Only the last 20m abseil to go, at least this has an easier start.  The Bungleboori is bathed in bright sunlight a distinct change from our last couple of hours.  Calls and loud whistles aren't answered, but a radio call establishes the others are 300 m or so upstream at a good camping location.  We wend our way up to them, scrambling, wading, swimming, pushing through scrub on the bank.  I always love the Bungleboori it is a place so rich in delightful stimuli for all the senses.  A place designed for people to be at peace with all. 

The camp spot is set in a coppice of small coachwood tree on level sandy ground, the true left bank of the creek.  The cliff line here has enough overhang, to shelter those who choose to sleep there. A couple do set up a sinylon tarp out under the trees.  At the back of the grove a waterfall provides a small flow of water suitable for drinking.  A small fire provides a focal point for the camp and augments cooking, most of which is done on super lightweight gas stoves.  Part of the aim of this trip is to demonstrate lightweight overnight canyoning (to this end I have foregone my sleeping bag and will use two sets of thermals plus a thermal inner-sheet, it gets cool I wrap my groundsheet/space-blanket over the top ).  As the light fades the fissures in the cliff faces reveal hundreds of glow-worms trying to outdo the light of the fire.  The tinkle of the passing stream gives a peaceful background sound to the conversation of exploits past and future, occasionally punctuated by the call of night birds, koel, boobook and possibly some heard doof doof as well. Crikey Canyon always pictures for the eys.  Pic by dug


Light comes even more gradually than normal in a canyon morning, so it was after 7 before much of a stirring from sleeping bags.  Fin hurt a toe yesterday and is doubtful about doing Nosedive Canyon today (she and Dave have a weeks canyoning planned so she doesn't want to jepodise that with an agrivated injury).  I am feeling lethargic this morning and I did Nosedive no so long ago so I wouldn't mind missing it either. 

We didn't get away till 9 in part because I decided to change into my wet suit for the 500m walk along the Bungleboori to the exit.  This section of river just as beautiful as the last with the advantage that we didn't need to swim.  I changed out of my half dry wet suit at the exit side creek.  One scramble up beside a fallen log, then easy walking up the creek at first then eventually up onto the ridge.  A pleasant stop sitting in the sun on one of the many rocky outcrops to discuss ways to Nosedive.  Fin decided not to go and I volunteered to go directly back with her, David her partner had not done Nosedive Canyon and he would gain from the experience.

We all did a resorting and distributing of group equipment so that Fin and I ended up with a squad gps, plb and abseil rope.  Fin and I sat a little longer practicing resection to find our exact location without the gps ( resection is measuring the angle from/to prominent locations within site (usually high spots) and plotting the angle lines on the map.   Your position is shown where the lines intersect.  Of course Fin did this very well.

We wandered our way up the spur to the main Rail Motor Ridge then back to Deep Pass.  No hurry, so we stopped to rest where we felt like it, or took photos and generally site see. One little prickle in paradise but, damn little pesky black horse flies. Hundreds of them with a stinging bite that leaves your skin feeling sore. I don't like killing things but the instinctive reaction is to swear and swat them and you get a number each time )-:  The doof doof music is back with us way back in the distance, wafting on the warm autumn airs.  We noticed two termite mounds in different places partly enveloping live broad leafed geebung trees.  Not sure how that works!  We did hear black cockatoos screeching overhead a couple of times but didn't look up.  Crikey Canyon exit spur, smoko.  pic by dug The old story is that you get a day's rain for each Black cocky you see – so don't look up.  This afternoon forecast is for thunderstorms and a southerly change anyway :-)

At the scramble down into Deep Pass we set up an abseil in two stages down to the valley floor.  On the fist abseil we notice  sharp ironstone bands in the rope fall line and position the rope to avoid then as best we could, also making sure to abseil gently.  I didn't have anything in my pack suitable for a rope protector.  (I didn't notice any rope damage during the abseil but Paul reported a bad wear mark that had to be cut out, when he checked the ropes back at the store.)

Back at the cars about 5pm, just before the thunder over to the southwest and a faint spit of drizzle.  The other team arrived just before 7, we soon packed up and headed off.  Dave and Fin dropped at Bungleboori Camp area to wait their friend.  Dave and Nic on to Canberra, Mark to Sydney and Paul and I to Richmond to pick up my car.  We phoned ahead for takeaway pizza at the Apple Bar at Bilpin.  Unluckily they were busy and we still had a wait.   We did get rained on more heavily on the road, so the weather was kind to us on the walk.

Thank you, Nic and Fin for a great tip, thank you Dave for organising the event and Dave, Paul, Mark for your part in the journey.  It is a pleasure to share this experience with you all. Till next time. Copyright Dug Floyd February 2010.


Map Crikey Creek walk.  by lpi

Click on Map to enlarge

Google Earth photo.  pic by Google earth.

Click on Image to enlarge

Lunch in Crikey Creek.  Pic by dug Crikey Creek, picturesque.  pic by dug.
Crikey Canyon start, Nic and Fin set up the first abseil.  Pic by dug. Crikey Creek, easy walking beneith the tree ferns beside the cliffs.  Pic by dug.
Crikey Creek, upstream of the canyon, scrambling down beside the tree ferns.  Pic by dug. Crikey Canyon, getting deeper, narrower and darker.  Pic by dug.
Crikey Canyon, first abseil from tree on true left.  Pic by dug. Crikey Canyon junction with the Bungleboori.  Pic by dug.
Crikey Canyon dark and narrow here, Fin emerges from the gloom.  Pic by dug. Crikey Canyon - wider now as we near the Bungleboori.  Pic by dug.
Crikey Canyon - typical canyoning obsticals.  Pic by dug. Crikey Canyon nearing exit.  Pic by dug
Crikey Canyon tightens again briefly near the exit.  Pic by dug Chockstones and boulder jambs, de je vu?  Pic by dug
Crikey Canyon getting even darker and narower now.  Pic by dug Crikey Canyon, final 20m abseil.  Pic by dug
Crikey Canyon towards the exit, more vegitation now.  Pic by dug Very dark and narrow here in Crikey Canyon.  pic by dug

Crikey very dark and narrow on this abseil.

Crikey Canyon lower section - Nic and Fin.  Pic by dug Crikey Canyon Junction with Bungleboori. Pic by dug
Bungleboori near Crikey Canyon exit.  pic by dug

Bungleboori near Crikey exit

Bungleboori from Crikey Canyon exit.  pic by dug

Bungleboori near Crikey exit

Crikey Canyon second abseil.  pic by dug

Crikey Canyon second abseil

Waterfall on true right cliff face of Bungleboori.  pic by dug

Waterfall on Bungleboori Creek

Saturday morning waiting to start at car park.  pic by dug Termite mound enveloping a living Geebung tree.  pic by dug
Bungleboori Creek - wonderful.  pic by dug

Walking upstream in Bungleboori

Bungleboori area from the exit rout spur.  pic by dug

Bungleboori area from the spur we used to exit.